Eminem, Wellington NZ, 2019

Eminem

Photography by Jeremy Deputat.

First published @ https://www.ambientlightblog.com/eminem-wellington-nz-2019

Last year there was a tourist campaign that asked the question: “Nil Ziland! Where the bloody hell are ya?!!” I’ll tell you where they were, at least tonight. Almost 46,500 Kiwis were here, at the Capital’s Westpac Stadium to see Hip Hop royalty rave it up. The buzz on this gig started way back last year. Tickets sold out in just 15 minutes, swelling the house way beyond the previous record holder, Robbie Williams (that inaugural show only scored 42,000).

Eminem and his entourage touched down by private jet on Thursday night, according to our one paparazzi photographer. Nothing scandalous happened but behind the scenes 250 local and international crew got busy building a massive stage, complete with huge screens left, right and centre behind the band. You’ve got to give credit that they managed to complete it in only 48 hours. It was a similar set up to that used by Guns N’ Roses a few years ago and seems to be the perfect fit for a stadium this size.

Being the only New Zealand gig peeps had come from far and wide. The ladies in front of me were clutching UK passports and an Auckland Hop Card; the group of four behind were from Taranaki; and earlier I’d met a couple in the security line who’d just jumped off a plane from Raro. Everyone was making an effort to get here. The last time Eminem was in Aotearoa was back in 2014 for a Western Springs (Auckland) concert, but this time around it was the Capital’s turn to get a big concert. I’d prayed all day that the fickle weather gods were not going to mess this one up…the stadium can be worse than a force 10 hurricane sometimes. The last time I was here I saw Axl Rose change six times – partly because he was soaked to the bone. But tonight, all gods were smiling and the wind chose to stay right away so that we all could enjoy a blissful night under the stars.

An audience of 45K is well in excess of what we are used to in these parts. Traffic chaos was promised but never really eventuated. However the sheer volume of people was quite evident around the outside of the stadium – as we got nearer to the entry gates we passed the long queues for the last minute ticket release which stretched the entire length of the Fran Wild Walk (about ½ a km), right back to the railway station. Optimistic fans were still keen for a last minute ticket.

While a fair chunk of the audience probably needed ID to go to the bar, I also spotted a few groups out on a Hen’s night; some Kuia clutching the arms of their tamariki; dads and sons hangin’ ; lads out on the night and a cache of (older) boys clubs, too. All types and typos. Shady, I guess, appeals to everyone.

In the bright evening sun Mai FM’s DJ Sir Vere spun some familiar tunes to get the party stared before the latest edition to the Shady Records family, Boogie, hits the boards. Decked out in a red puffa and matching cap he looked schmick but must have been sweltering as the cool of the night hadn’t settled in yet. “How the fuck yo doing, Wellington?” He’s here to grease up the Cake Tin, starting off his short and sweet set with material from his super fresh debut ‘Everythings For Sale’, which only dropped last month. Boogie, aka Anthony Dixson, hails from Compton, California. He’s got a rep’ for bringing his real life, streetwise experiences to life in his music, just like his mentor, Eminem, and that clicked a few dials in the crowd. The dude in front of me, dressed all in white had done his homework, rapping along to every rhyme. He and many of the early comers really appreciated Boogie’s casual, easy flow delivery, winning them over, despite being relatively unknown in New Zealand – for now.

Boogie dedicates the single ‘Nigga Needs’ to the dear and departed of Hip Hop, like rappers Mac Miller, XXXTentacion, and Lil Peep. He then blasts a passage into this third number Self Destruction’ (his best in my opinion) before quickly disappearing, leaving everyone, including me, feeling just a little bit short-changed. At 15-20 minutes long, this was a very short glimpse of a huge upcoming. You get the feeling that he could well be another 50 Cent on the rise, you certainly have to give credit to the Shady machine for choosing the right stars to polish.

Helped out by DJ Kid Vishis, Royce da 5’9” rolls into 2018’s Woke, eager to give fans some grittier stuff. He then breaks it down, showcasing tracks from his stellar career, including Slaughterhouse’s Microphone and PRhyme’s Streets At Night. Royce da 5’9″ a.k.a Ryan Montgomery has a long association with Eminem, as well as being a much celebrated solo artist (also finding the time to be a ghost-writer for Diddy and Dr. Dre, the man is busy!). He also jams with Mr Mathers as a part of the duo Bad Meets Evil (which we’ll be treated to later tonight), but for this set he gives us a blistering ‘solo’ version of their 2011 anthem ‘Lighters’. It gets everyone in the bleachers off their seats and creates a tidal wave down in the mosh pit. He also blasts out ‘Summer On Lock’, proudly announcing he’s been clean “7 years this September“. His set is also super short and he departs reminding us: “Remember you are part of history. Don’t forget where you are.” All hands are up and waving side to side in agreement.

During the break one over-keen reveller gets ejected with help from the local boys and girls in blue and the whole house explodes in cheers of support. Ain’t no one here shouting “Fuck the Police!” tonight, cos the vibe is chilled and friendly. This is the only incident I see. I have to give credit to security for being calm, cool and collected hosts.

The evening continued with Adelaide’s Hilltop Hoods cutting it up. Backed by a funky, if slightly nervous, horn section and the deft playing of Plutonic Lab on the drums they crack open the tinnies with a huge version of their 2009 topper ‘Chase That Feeling’. Every hand is up, as the crew bounce around the stage like “mutha-fuckin’ psychos!” (my white clad seat buddy’s labelling them so). It’s clear they are having a ball. However, rapping with Aussie accents whilst trying to sound ‘Brooklyn’ takes a few minutes to get used to. But it’s all good.

MC Suffa and MC Pressure trade rhymes like they were born and raised by the Beastie Boys, weaving DJ Debris’ grooves into dangerously infectious stadium-fillers. I’m not familiar with their material but I catch stonking deliveries of ‘The Nosebleed Section’ and ‘I Love It’. To help out, they bring out fellow Adelaidean Adrian Eagle to sweetly vocalise two more tunes – ‘Clark Griswold’ and ‘Live & Let Go’. CeeLo Green, watch your back, buddy! They make plenty of fans in the dying embers of their set with the mega-earworm ‘Leave Me Lonely’ and ‘Rattling The Keys To The Kingdom’. Finally, they close with the super funky ‘Cosby Sweater’.

Another short break, and we all settle in for the big moment. Finally, it’s here. All chatter hushes away as the place goes completely dark and a brief video flashes up the big screens. It’s Marshall as a modern day Gulliver stalking his old streets, kicking cars and harassing his neighbours. Tension builds, chords swell into the intro music to The Greatest and out comes the man himself. Eminem hits the ring decked out in a white hoodie and sweats, ready for 10 rounds swingin’.

His public go ape shit as he fires off his first salvo like a double barrelled Gatling gun. He’s backed by a super classy backing band (complete with lead guitarist, drummer, and even a string section) who give a fantastically intense musical accompaniment to his set. Eminem is quickly joined by his hype man Mr. Porter, and they both plough through a pile of hits at break neck speed. ‘3 a.m.’, ‘Square Dance’, and ‘Kill You’ are stunning – the latter shocks all and sundry to a halt with a frighteningly-loud finale of gunshots.

Proving his critics to be the pathetic, weak-kneed assholes he’s always accused them to be, Eminem proves once and for all why he really is the Rap God, delivering his lines at supersonic speed and confirming that his performance on the record was definitely no Producer’s trickery. This track alone had me falling off my seat in amazement. Phone flashlights brighten up for ‘Sing For The Moment’, ‘Like Toy Soldiers’. He then drops a Drake cover (Forever) into the mix and encourages everyone to rudely ‘salute’ during ‘Don’t Give A Fuck’.

Porter and Mathers take a short break to, err, ‘reminisce’ on the 20 legacy of The Slim Shady LP and then offset that with the equally powerful new anthem ‘Fall’ (from 2018’s Kamakaze), alongside ‘Criminal’, and the very apt tune ‘The Way I Am’.

As Mr. Porter departs, the heavily tattooed and ultra-glamorous Skylar Grey takes his place to sing the tag lines on ‘Walk On Water’, ‘Stan’ and totally nails the vocals on ‘Love The Way You Lie’. Mr. Porter pops back to help out on Nicki Minaj’s ‘Majesty’ and usher in the stunning deliveries of ‘Berzerk’, ‘Till I Collapse’, and another fav of mine, ‘Cinderella Man’. Royce da 5’9” puts in an appearance to do a short one-man version of ‘Caterpillar’, quickly bookended by Eminem reuniting the Bad Meets Evil team for a furnace melting rendition of ‘Fast Lane’.

Boogie and Skylar Grey come back again to give us ‘Rainy Days’, the brilliant single ‘River’ and another stunner ‘The Monster’, respectively. Porter and Eminem have another bit of a chat to draw out the tension, jiving that they took ‘buckets of cocaine and meth’ in their day – “so let’s take you back….”, they quip, by way of an intro. It’s all a bit clumsy, but no-one minds. After all this is the purpose to get us what we really want: ‘My Name Is’, ‘The Real Slim Shady’, ‘Without Me’, and 2010’s huger mega-killer ‘Not Afraid’.

Then it all goes quiet. That’s it. The couple on the late train push past as images of a starry night skies fill up the screens. An ambient buzz builds almost to an orgasmic crescendo as the opening notes of 2002’s ‘Lose Yourself’ ring out. All hell is about to break loose… The guitar strum starts up like the motor on a pure-bred Harley and everyone cheers. The din is deafening. Eminem is back one last time to deliver the fatal blows. His rhymes flow freely and deftly but no one is listening, they are all rapping alongside in perfect unison, word for word, punching out every lyric like their lives depend upon it.

It’s fair to say that whether you are a rap fan or not, Mr Mathers and crew can put on a phenomenal show. The energy on the stage tonight was so explosive it could have powered half the North Island. Fireworks finished the night out and gave us all the signal to ‘get the hell out’. Nobody was dissin’ this show. Perhaps Revival was a bit of a low point for Eminem, even he made a joke in that direction during the show, but given his performance tonight you can’t deny the man, even at 45, is still on top of his game. This show was no ‘Eminem-esque farce’. It was the real thing.

By Tim Gruar

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